Picking a backpack for your next trip

Picking a backpack can be one of the biggest choices when it comes to long-term travel. At 16 when I went backpacking around Europe I spent the whole time adjusting the straps on my backpack and trying to work out how I could carry it as little as possible. My tiny hips and small figure was dwarfed by the bag and one of my biggest memories of that trip was the pain and discomfort I felt every time I had to carry it. So trust me when I say choosing your backpack is more than the cute design and amount it will hold.


Understanding your backpack

There are basically 2 main types of backpack you can choose from backpack and an expedition pack.


A backpack is designed for the type of long trip that most people will undertake; going from one place to another whether it is across different countries or within one. Taking buses, tuk-tuks, public transport, trains or driving. This includes overland trips and treks where your bags are carried up by porta’s or where you will be staying in hotels or cabins.


An expedition pack, however, is designed for the more rustic travel, staying in tents, sleeping in hammocks, using camping stoves and washing in rivers. Think the type of adventure you might have while doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award (D of E) or wilderness camping. If you have a few nights of wilderness camping but won’t be doing it often I would recommend the backpacking bag.  



  • It has zip closures which can be secured with a padlock
  • It opens like a suitcase allowing you to access your belongings easily
  • Has a cover for the straps and harnesses making it easier for storage and airline travel
  • Normally comes with a day bag attached to the front [should not be carried this way] these are great to use when going out for the day or if you are doing a couple of nights away from your larger bag


Expedition Pack

  • Top loading bag – your main bag can only be accessed from the top- some bags now have a zipped access area at the bottom.
  • Closes with a drawstring and clips so can’t be secured
  • Adjustable strap and harness system
  • Doesn’t come with an additional bag as it wouldn’t be needed
  • Is perfect for the type of trip where you are camping every night or on a traditional expedition
  • Will often feature a place to hold walking sticks


Picking a bag to suit you

There are a number of different elements that go into picking which backpack will suit your body and your trip.


Backpack manufacturers design a number of backpacks for specifically for women, normally things designed for women just annoy me; they tend to be bright pink and more expensive for no real reason. However, backpacks are one of the things that are usefully made for women or more realistically smaller body frames. By that I mean, a short man might decide the ‘women’s pack’ is better for him and a 6ft something woman may find that the regular backpack can fit them better.


Basically, the ‘women’s’ pack is designed for a shorter and smaller torso and the adjustable straps mean that you can adjust it to perfectly fit a smaller frame. They come in neutral colours such as black and grey so don’t feel like you will have to wear Barbie’s backpack meaning they are still great for smaller men.


It is advised the ‘women’ have backpacks which hold between 50-55L, while men should carry between 60-65l plus a day bag for each of them. Bags are always measured in litres.


Do I really need it?


No, absolutely not. If you are happy to pack all your stuff around in a day bag style bag then totally do it- or if you feel you want to carry more then do it. Just make sure you can carry it!

So what is your favourite bag for travelling?


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